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The War on Privacy is a War with Ourselves

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By Tristan James

A website offering access to webcams, security cameras and just about every other unprotected electronic eyeball on the planet may seem intrusive, but it's nothing new. We've all stolen wifi from unprotected networks before, but now you can take it that next step further, wading bravely into the creepy waters of peeping.

Opentopia, a website like many others, works by pulling unprotected, effectively public, live feeds from various sources around the internet. These can (and do) include an office full of square-jawed women in Moscow, an empty car park in Brazil and a university cafeteria in Maryland. With the constant expansion of video surveillance and video networks many, as a result of poor regulation, are as accessible as your mothers battery-operated Friday night special. Just open the draw, root around and there it is.

While many see this as a pretty strange form of entertainment, live camera link services have been around for some time, the thing is that they're just pretty fucking boring, and no-one really cares. Unless of course it's used for pornography, then it's not boring, and many people care.

As we all stare at the blindingly omnipotent light that Google Glass is casting over the tech-world, it's important to address some of the arguments that the product has ignited. Many see Google Glass as the latest shady uncle at the Christmas family get-together, casting his dubious and piercing glare across the innocent faces of privacy and information protection. Yet, the world we live in is far from being innocent and even further from being private.

Despite what that bloke at the pub managed to convince you of between bits of spittle and Carling, there is no ominous governing body that wishes to see, and effectively control all of our lives. There is only our desire for complete bias exposé.

It seems George Orwell not only struck a chord but also a match, and the fires of paranoia over personal privacy have never settled. We surround ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge, the unveiling of the unknown, the insight into the private. Whether it be television series like Big Brother or the social media protocols of updating, checking-in, tagging people and tagging locations. Even text messaging is tainting your ability to privately read (and politely ignore), with iPhone messenger showing a sender exactly when you read their text (and chose not to reply). Accepting the fear of sounding like Charlie Brooker (I have nicer eyebrows), privacy if it ever was truly alive, is very much dead.

In regards to Googe Glass, many casinos, restaurants, cinemas and adult entertainment houses are planning to ban it upon release, which is of course totally agreeable. They are only responding naturally to a threat of business loss. Yet, look here, a Live Cam of a restaurant in Turkey. A red Volvo just pulled up - how exciting. Or here, check out some Russians getting a pedicure. In Mother Russia, I thought nails pedicured you.

Beyond business owners, few actually care about the product's usage in such establishments. It seems that most see Google Glass as some sort of evil oracle of exposure. The final thrust into privacy's beaten and curb-stomped body. But, much of the argument for and against privacy protection is simply an argument against ourselves. We are a dog yapping, snarling and barking at the threat of it's own reflection. We wish to maintain our own internal level of privacy but demand total transparency from all that is around us. We expect a one-way mirror-like view of the world, a view out and into the lives of others, but a protective barrier against those looking in.

When Google Mail was first unveiled, advocacy groups initially demanded that Congress slap that sucker down like Sean Connery in a Barbara Walters interview. They had learned the service was to be funded by contextual advertising that "read" users emails. It of course wasn't the heretical privacy invasion it was first labelled to be, rather an intelligent way to generate unique user-based advertising. Google Mail is now the most popular email client currently in use.

What's important to remember is that our views on privacy are totally lopsided, personalized and deeply flawed. It is a hypocritical argument that is bouncing off the flavour of the month, and this months flavour is apples, I mean, Apple's Google Glass. Only when we stop trying to pry into each others lives will such a thing as personal privacy truly exist.

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